Between Donald Trump’s bleach tweets and the 80 million pieces of content removed or blocked by Google worldwide during the Covid-19 crisis, the European Commission is no longer hiding behind its little finger to identify the perpetrators of unrest that endangered the lives of Europeans by spreading false information. “Russia and China are the main providers of content aimed at misinforming European citizens,” attacks Values and Transparency Commissioner Vera Jourova, who presented the results of the Covid-19 sequence on Wednesday morning.
The East StratCom task force of the European External Action Service, headed by Commissioner Josep Borrell, has thus counted more than 550 disinformation messages from pro-Kremlin sources. A special website, EUvsDisinfo, lists all the poisons from Moscow… The site is worth a look, it’s edifying.
TikTok platform to join code of good practice
“I support Twitter’s action on President Trump’s tweets”, continues Commissioner Jourova, adding that the intention of the “code of good practices” implemented by Brussels in October 2018 with online platforms does not is not to remove all the lies spread on the Web, but to counter them with facts. “Twitter has not deleted any tweets from President Trump, so we can still view them all, but Twitter has added verified information as well as established facts which the platform has advertised,” she said.
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In general, Commissioner Jourova praised the action of online platforms during this health crisis. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Mozilla were the first to adhere to the code of good practice in 2018. Microsoft joined the movement in 2019. Commissioner Jourova announces that the video platform TikTok will in turn join the code. From the start of the pandemic, the Commission agreed with the platforms to promote links referring to the WHO and the health authorities. The platforms have agreed to remove ads promoting fake miracle cures or those that inflate the price of ordinary consumer goods.
Germans misinformed about vaccines
“Misinformation jeopardizes not only the health of citizens but also that of democracies,” said Vera Jourova. It can negatively affect the economy and undermine the reaction of public authorities. In this sense, it can also undermine the measures that are taken on the health front. Unfortunately, the disinformation will continue. It seems that the next battleground is that of vaccination. For example, a study has shown that the willingness of the Germans to get vaccinated has declined. It has almost lost 20 percentage points in less than two months. “
This shows that there is still a lot to do in this delicate area which must combine and balance the right to freedom of expression and the fight against disinformation. Writing nonsense on a social network is not illegal. It is not a question of removing the contents which profite ineptitudes, but of rebalancing this flood of intoxication by the promotion of verified facts, reliable for the reader. Dangerous content is not necessarily illegal, unlike hate speech or calls for violence, which must be removed. The Commission is trying to provide an appropriate response to these different types of messages without restoring intolerable censorship. The madness of the health crisis raged in the United Kingdom where a conspiratorial rumor attributed to 5G antennas the gift of spreading the coronavirus…
When the official authorities slip…
However, we must be honest, we are coming out of an equally calamitous health episode for the official word. Who to trust when those who are supposed to be authoritative endanger the lives of others by their behavior or their words? The Donald Trump case is striking: he claims to have joked about bleach, but his words were taken in the first degree to the point that some of his supporters did not hesitate to ingest them … Then he affirmed take chloroquine as a preventative, which does not correspond to any recommended medical indication.
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Even leading scientific journals like The Lancet published a study on the harms of chloroquine which, after a critical review of the data, showed that it was not reliable. Three of its four authors have discovered the numerous errors noted by the scientific community and Professor Raoult in particular. What can be said also of the contradictory messages from French government authorities on the usefulness or not of wearing a mask? The WHO was not faultless either, to say the least… So much so that social networks have not had a monopoly on disinformation or bad information. Official speech has deteriorated a lot.
Infox pays more
But the European Commission cannot afford to distribute good and bad points to European governments … So we come back to platforms. “They have to do more and our code [des bonnes pratiques, NDLR] is just the first step in the right direction, ”said Commissioner Jourova. First, Twitter, Facebook, Google or Microsoft only communicate to the Commission what they want to reveal … The Commission has no way of verifying. Also, Brussels requests that in the future the platforms communicate “evidence” and assess the real effectiveness of the measures taken. “We are now inviting them to provide us with monthly reports with more accurate information than we have seen so far,” she said. The Commission also wants to knock on the wallet by targeting advertising revenue related to advertisements carrying false news. Misinformation is also a business and platforms are tempted to turn a blind eye to some very lucrative fallacious content. Finally, at the end of the year, the Digital Services Act plans to strengthen the responsibility of platforms for content, much more than the regime put in place 20 years ago through the e directive. – trade of June 8, 2000.
“Lying is not new and it is not that scary. What scares me is our gullibility in the face of these lies, ”said the commissioner, who wants to use traditional media as a bulwark. “I do not want to establish the Ministry of Truth in this way,” she defends herself. I lived in a system before 1989 where there was only one official truth; there was no pluralism of the media, in opinion or even in thought. We must, and we will, support the fact-finding mechanism, research activities through the European Digital Media Observatory. This Observatory has just been launched. The Commission wants to invest € 9 million in research and fact-checking. Traditional media should also be supported by the European recovery plan.
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When Macron lectures Putin
Of course, Vladimir Putin denies being the sponsor of this war of disinformation. Russia Today and Sputnik are private initiative bodies, as is the gigantic “troll factory” based in Saint Petersburg (funded by the oligarch Evgueni Prigozhin, close to the Kremlin).
Read also Russia: the “troll factory” is running at full speed
When the Russian president came to Paris, Emmanuel Macron had also touched him with two words during their tête-à-tête. The head of state considered the disinformation of Russia Today against him during his presidential campaign to be a blow below the belt on the part of his counterpart. “But you have public media like France Inter,” said Vladimir Poutine. “I invite you to listen to France Inter every morning, at 8 am, you will see that the freedom of your tone towards me has nothing to do with the tone of the Russian media,” retorted the French president. In any case, this dialogue was reported by Emmanuel Macron during a meeting with journalists, including Point.